Hotel groups and chains

McDreams Hotels: An onboarding success story in hotel automation

Petra Hancz

Petra Hancz

McDreams Hotels

Adopting an API-first hospitality management platform to achieve hotel automation is, for many operators, going to be the last major decision they ever take with their tech stack.

Once that decision is made, it’s finally time to say goodbye to tools that never evolve, because you’re no longer beholden to a single tech vendor. However, there’s still a right and a wrong way to do it. Moving platforms takes preparation and planning – and a phased approach is essential if you want to take your staff with you. 

In the latest in our series on the topic of onboarding, we look at the ‘change’ masterclass provided by McDreams Hotels, who have demonstrated what best practice looks like when switching out a property management system. We’ll take a deep-dive into all aspects of the move, from the reason for the switch to successful migration, the onboarding journey and a framework for continuous improvement. It’s a blueprint for hotels of all sizes to succeed in the digital age.

What was the catalyst for change?

Founded in 2009, McDreams Hotels has relentlessly pursued a low cost, digital-first model in a bid to create automated hotels, and the company strives to be an early adopter. So when its leadership team spotted the potential of an API-first property management platform, they saw it as something that would impact — and involve — everyone across the business. The high cost and lack of flexibility of their existing hotel PMS was something they wanted to leave in the past. They were looking for something that had an intuitive and easy-to-use user interface that would allow them to pick the tools they needed to create the highest level of automation possible. 

A successful migration relies on good organisation and planning, but what does that really look like in practice? Here we’ll break down exactly how McDreams Hotels executed this change, providing a template for other companies who want to follow a similar path.

Getting ready at McDreams Hotels

  • You should always appoint a single person to lead the change. For McDreams Hotels that person was Ralf Bonin, Director of Operations who, to this day, uses the transition to Apaleo as an example for colleagues of successful project management. 

  • Under Ralf, McDreams Hotels founded a project team whose job it was to manage the entire process under his direction. This consisted of members of various departments including connectivity/IT, bookings and operations. This team was responsible for first customising Apaleo's features to meet the specific needs of McDreams Hotels. Every aspect of the hotel’s operations had to be looked at in detail to make sure its business priorities, brand and guest experience were maximised using the new platform.

  • The team then identified all the steps required to complete the project, which they broke down into a timeline with tasks assigned to the most appropriate people in the correct departments. This was important because it created clear accountability, and everyone understood their individual responsibilities. 

  • Ralf was mainly supported by Linda Ruppel, Group Manager & Corporate System Manager. Together, they made sure the team knew the value of communication with regular updates and meetings helping them to move as one. Trello was the tool they used to achieve this – organising tasks, tracking progress, and helping the team to coordinate in real-time. 

  • Their communication with colleagues who weren’t on the project management team was critical too. They communicated the transition well in advance so colleagues had time to prepare and learn how to use the new system. Nothing was left to the last minute or to chance. 

Getting ready at Apaleo

  • The Apaleo team had to be just as prepared on their side too, for the transition to succeed. Our experts identified which parts of the previous tech stack McDreams Hotels wanted to continue using and which would be entirely new. This survey spanned the entire property management ecosystem, from the internet booking engine (IBE) and keyless access to housekeeping, CRM and the guest & employee experience, where futuristic tool LIKE MAGIC would remain on board. RMS provider, Hotellistat, was another tool McDreams Hotels wanted to continue to use.

  • Apaleo was also responsible for the training plan, something the McDreams Hotels team could begin well in advance of the go-live date. The team took advantage of the Apahero program, which turned one of the McDreams Hotels' team into an expert on how to use the Apaleo platform. This individual became the primary point of contact between Apaleo and McDreams Hotels, acting as an in-house trainer and passing on knowledge to colleagues. ‘Apaheros’ act as the main point of contact between hotel teams and Apaleo through a preferred communication channel, and they help teams unlock the full potential of the platform.

  • The Apaleo team also carried out an assessment of the challenges and risks associated with each onboarding. It’s different for every company — varying with product type, geography, territory, regulation and more — so it’s a step that must not be missed. 


This is where all the different departments came together with Apaleo for one of the most important phases of the project, as plenty of mistakes can still be made. There is still much to do and coordination is essential. 

Here’s a rundown of the different departments’ responsibilities:

  • First of all, Apaleo and McDreams Hotels conducted a pilot test on a single property. This picked up any last minute snags and errors within the platform but it’s useful in other ways too. It’s often at this stage that any gaps in learning on behalf of staff can be identified, fixed, and replicated at other sites before it’s too late. Poor staff training will always undermine a switch of hotel property management platform, even if you’ve done everything else right. 

  • The Connectivity team took the learnings from the pilot deployment and streamlined the property set up for all remaining sites. This ensured continuity in services and accounting while migrating data from the old PMS to the new platform. Seamless migrations of the booking and rate management systems were of particular importance to avoid downtime and loss of revenue. 

  • A team of specialists at McDreams Hotels managed the meticulous task of transferring bookings, closing financial loops, and ensuring data integrity across systems to maintain operational continuity.

  • The IT team was responsible for the technical enablement of payment and service terminals, ensuring that the necessary hardware was integrated and working correctly. 

  • The operations team focused on reprogramming access systems and training staff onsite to ensure a smooth changeover and uninterrupted guest experience.

  • The marketing team updated communication channels and promotional content, making sure that messaging was consistent across all areas and tools on the new Apaleo platform.

The future

Hotels adopt Apaleo because they can enjoy a property management platform that never stops evolving. Having a process in place that allows that to happen means a company will extract the most value from the migration. The way McDreams Hotels achieved this was by continuing to engage with the Apaleo Community post-implementation. Here, they shared feedback and tips, carried out troubleshooting and shared practice. The team was very proactive in seeking feedback so they could refine what they were doing even more. Automation emerged as a significant focus, and McDreams Hotels continued to build out this area of their hotel tech stack following the main migration. 

Linda Ruppel, McDreams Hotels’ Group Manager & Corporate System Manager, said: “The support from the Apaleo Community was instrumental, offering solutions and workarounds that eased the transition challenges. This collaborative approach underscored the value of selecting a platform that was not just a service provider but a partner in innovation.”

Key takeaways

This was a switch that, while a significant undertaking, would not have to be tackled again. McDreams Hotels now gets to pick and choose the tools they use from a best-in-class ecosystem of technologies coming from all over the world. More than that, they achieved all this without a single guest being inconvenienced. All they saw was an improvement in the guest experience, and that was all down to the way the two companies approached change management.

Once the project was complete, McDreams Hotels reported back that one of the most dramatic differences they noticed was the change from manual to automated processes. This was more than just a technology upgrade — it has unlocked a totally different future for this progressive hotel brand. Ralf added: “Some “Dreamies” even noted that this has changed the work at McDreams fundamentally to an even easier way.”

Follow the simple steps in this guide and you too can enter the age of MACH architecture, with everything composable hospitality has to offer. 

A dive into the tech stack of McDreams Hotels

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